Hair today, gone tomorrow?

posted in Miscellaneous on August 6th, 2017 | 0 Comments

A few months ago, I wrote about my love-hate relationship with my shower.
A place of refuge from the stresses of the world, the shower also became a
collection point for what seemed to be an ever-growing ball of hair that
always collected in my drain.

Although I’ve gotten the clogs handled, the number of strands I saw in my
wide-toothed comb and on the floor worried me. Seeing so much hair no
longer attached to my head made me wonder how much of my hair loss was
normal, and a quick Internet search showed this was a common question or
concern for all women, but particularly women with textured hair. Is
shedding and breakage more of an issue for us, and if so, what should we
do about it?

Candy Lewis Williams, a naturopathic doctor and trichologist who started her
career as a cosmetologist, began studying hair loss after years of working
with her salon clients to find solutions to their hair concerns. Hiding
thinning spots or finding styles that improved the appearance of their
hair were temporary solutions, but Lewis Williams wanted to get to the root of the
problem, so to speak, to find a longer-term solution. Last fall, she
appeared on the Dr. Oz show to discuss hair loss in women, and spoke at a
conference in Argentina for trichologists – dermatologists who study the
hair and scalp.

“Everyone has their ‘normal’ when it comes to the amount of hair shed, and
it usually depends on their normal hormonal cycles,” Lewis Williams said. A loss of
80-100 strands daily is the average for most women.

When she sees a client today, Lewis Williams takes a comprehensive approach to
determining whether there is an issue with hair loss, asking questions
about daily routines to investigate potential sources of stress,
completing blood and hormone testing and examining the scalp for disorders
such as excess scaliness, which could indicate an internal concern.

Sometimes, the issue could be situational, such as a bad reaction to a new
product or a food sensitivity. Hormonal changes related to the beginning
or end of pregnancy and birth control use can lead to hair loss. Stress is
often listed as a culprit, although Lewis Williams says stress-related hair loss
usually results from an abnormal stressor newly introduced in one’s life.

“Many of us, especially women, operate at basic level of stress every day
simply balancing work, family and personal obligations,” Lewis Williams said.

Asking the right questions and completing the examinations can often help
Lewis Williams suggest a course of action, such as nutritional and hormonal
assistance, if the hair loss is of a temporary nature. If the condition is
genetic or autoimmune, such as certain permanent types of alopecia, drug
therapies to prevent further hair loss can be started.

Lewis Williams also explained the difference between breakage and shedding –
breakage causes hair to break somewhere along the strand, and usually can
be halted through healthier exterior hair care techniques, while shedding
is the loss of the hair directly from the follicle. As Lewis Williams said,
shedding is inevitable, but excessive shedding is indicative of an
internal issue.

As for curly hair, it doesn’t shed more because of its texture, she said.
The fragile nature of curly hair, which sometimes sprouts in multiple
textures on one head, makes it more prone to breakage from overprocessing,
pulling and improper cleansing, which could explain the appearance of what
appears to be excessive shedding among the curly set. Women of different
ethnicities can experience different growth cycles as well, with Asians
and Native Americans generally having a longer anagen, or growth phase,
which can last up to six years. The catagen phase is a transitional phase
that lasts close to two weeks, and the telogen phase is the resting period
when the hair leaves the follicle and is inactive for a few months until a
new hair takes its place. Hair loss happens when this cycle is disrupted.

During the past two years, I’ve experienced pregnancy and childbirth and
lack of sleep from caring for a new baby. I have no doubt those hormonal
and lifestyle changes affected my hair growth cycles, both by contributing
to significant length during pregnancy and shedding afterward. Now that my
life has hit this new normal, the shedding has leveled off and my usual
hair care regimen of conditioner washing and using moisturizing products
has prevented significant breakage. And knowing what I know now about hair
loss, I won’t feel too worried when I see what looks like 100 strands
going down my drain – as Dr. Lewis Williams mentions, that’s perfectly normal.

Shannon Shelton Miller
www.shannonsheltonmiller.com
shannon@shannonsheltonmiller.com

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